Couples living together
Currently in the UK there is a trend for couples to live together before they get married and in many cases with the rate of marriage declining many couples are choosing this option over getting married at all.
This may be a position which the couple feel suits them but in terms of certain legal issues it may not necessarily be the most beneficial situation.
What would be the scenario if one of the partners dies?
An issue which many couples may not realise when moving in together is that if one of the partners is to die without a will then under the rules in intestacy in England and Wales all of their property will either go to their parents or to their siblings.
Sole ownership of the property
The scenario could exist whereby a couple has been living together in a home for over 10 years but if the home is in the name of one of the partners or was bought by that partner then if there is no will in place the other partner could be left with nothing. This would mean that not only would that partner have to deal with the problem of the death of the other partner they would have no claim on the home they had worked so hard to build.
Tenants in common
Furthermore if a couple owns a property together as tenants in common upon the death of one of the partners the surviving partner will be able to keep their share of the property but under the intestacy rules the other half will go to a relative.
This second scenario may be better than the first but it may still leave the surviving partner in certain difficulties.
Is there any way around this potential problem?
If a couple is to own their home as joint tenants then upon the death of one of the partners the entire property will be left to the remaining partner. This is clearly a much more desirable position but still may leave the remaining partner in some financial difficulties.
Drafting a will
The best course of action in this scenario would be for the property to be left to the remaining partner in a will. For example when looking at the issue of a couple being tenants in common a will which has been properly drafted can provide the remaining partner with the option of being allowed a certain amount of time to buy the other half of the property – this would not be permissible under the rules of intestacy.
Therefore when a couple decides to move into a property together regardless of whether they are married or have children they should ensure that they immediately draft a will so that their partner is not left in financial difficulties if an untimely death occurs.
A will should not only be concerned with the property market
Many young professionals who have started their own business and who often own 100% of the shares in that business should seriously consider drafted a will as soon as possible to take care of the following issues upon their death:
In certain cases they may wish to appoint a professional trustee who upon the owner’s death would have a duty of care to appoint another individual to run the business and ensure it keeps itself afloat before it can be sold
It may also be possible to claim high amount of inheritance tax as business property relief
Wills may not often be something which are thought about until later life but as individuals start to own more and more such as property and business serious consideration should be given to wills to ensure that difficulties are not run into following an untimely death.